Four billion dollars.
Among the myriad of numbers offered by Southeast Regional College president and CEO Dion McGrath at a recent meeting of the Estevan Chamber of Commerce, the figure that should have grabbed the most attention was $4 billion: the amount of money that the Bakken oil formation has generated for provincial coffers over the last six years.
From 2008 to 2012, the Bakken brought in $3.8 billion for provincial coffers, and so it's almost certain that it would have eclipsed $4 billion plateau at some point last year.
The Bakken accounts for more than six per cent of Saskatchewan's gross domestic product, and about seven per cent of provincial revenues.
And while the numbers peaked in 2008, the Bakken has remained one of the driving forces in Saskatchewan in recent years.
So southeast Saskatchewan residents should be asking a fundamental question: are we getting our money's worth for the revenues that we're injecting into the provincial coffers? Not only does the southeast generate income through the Bakken, it infuses cash for the province through the other prevalent industries.
Now, it's not as simple as saying that because southeast Saskatchewan generates a certain amount of revenues, it should get an equal amount of capital investment. But there should be rewards for the strength of the southeast economy.
The government also has to be mindful that while the Bakken's strength has been a terrific development, it has carried a toll for the southeast region.
There has been considerable investment in the southeast through the integrated carbon capture and storage project; the resurfacing of Highway 47 through Estevan, Highway 13 east of Weyburn and Highway 18 east of Estevan; and other projects in recent years
It appears that progress is finally occurring on Estevan's truck route. Highway 39 from Estevan to Macoun is finally slated to be resurfaced. And the government appears ready to move forward with twinning Highways 39 and 6 from Estevan to Regina.
The Bakken helped make these projects possible.
But we're still left waiting for more.
The southeast region, incredibly enough, doesn't have a CT scan. St. Joseph's Hospital has been lobbying for one, and they have the support from the community. There is no good reason for the region – with two cities and a burgeoning population – to lack such essential medical technology.
The lack of available and affordable housing remains a big issue, and an impediment for growth. The college has reached the point where they're trying to bring different partners together to find a resolution for the housing issue, but many often ask if the provincial government could do more to address Estevan's housing needs.
And while there has been progress on resurfacing highways in the southeast, there are many highways that continue to be beat up by heavy truck traffic.
That's why so many ask whether we're getting our fair share of the $4 billion from the last six years.